Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
Kingdom Civics

The New Covenant (1)

Founding Documents (3)

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” Matthew 12.28

A better covenant

The Old Testament, or Old Covenant, established a framework of promises, blessings, and sanctions within which the people of God could begin to know and serve Him, so as to glorify Him and restore His creation to its intended state of goodness, following the crisis of the fall into sin.

Yet the Old Testament is merely anticipatory of a better covenant to come. I say, “merely”, not in the sense of the Old Testament’s have no continuing value; certainly, as the inspired Word of God, it does. The Law and the Prophets – a historic way of dividing the books of the Old Testament – provide the practical details of how to carry out the ethics which God expects of His Kingdom people (Matt. 22.34-40).

However, the people of God in the Old Testament never had the heart required to fulfill all their covenant potential. The story of ancient Israel is more a story of the faithfulness of God in providing for and bearing with His people than of a particular nation’s failure to thrive. That dogged faithfulness of God alone is what kept the faithful in Israel looking forward to a day of greater fulfillment and blessedness.

For the precious and very great promises of the Old Covenant (2 Pet. 1.4) to be realized, something more than just human desire and striving would be required. Power from God was necessary, both for removing the sins to which all human beings are slaves and for enlivening a new way of being-in-the-world. This power would come with the a promised Kingdom (cf. Gen. 49.8-10; Dan. 2.44, 45; 7.13-27; Is. 9.6, 7), in which God Himself would rule among His people on earth, bringing with Him the power for renewal which alone can accomplish the purposes of the divine economy.

And this would require a new covenant with the people of God, an unbreakable covenant, one that is able, in its own power, to overcome the weaknesses of sinful men in order to accomplish the eternal purposes of God (Jer. 31.31-34). That New Covenant, and the Kingdom which would empower it, would be brought to human history by none other than God Himself, in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by His Word and Spirit.

I want to introduce the New Testament, which develops the first stages of the story of the New Covenant, from two perspectives. First, we will consider the New Testament as the record of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Then, in our next installment, we will examine the New Testament’s witness to how that Kingdom serves to accomplish the purposes of the divine economy.

Announcing the Kingdom

The New Testament reveals itself to be the record of the coming of the Kingdom of God in four ways. First, its leading characters announced the Kingdom as the primary content of their preaching and teaching.

This is evident in the Lord Jesus Christ from first to last during His earthly ministry (cf. Matt. 4.17; Acts 1.1-3). As He preached in the synagogues of Israel, taught in the hills and by the seaside, and responded to the challenges of His opponents, Jesus consistently insisted that the Kingdom of God had come with Him and with His ministry. He identified Himself as the Son of David, arrived to receive His father’s throne, and as the Son of God to Whom that throne rightly and eternally belongs. He thoroughly instructed His disciples in the glory and promise of the Kingdom of God, by parables and other teaching – so much so that, immediately prior to His ascension, we find them eager to receive what He had been teaching them all those years (Acts 1.6).

The apostles and other preachers, upon receiving the Spirit of God and the new heart promised with Him, immediately began to preach Jesus as King (Acts 17.1-9) and to proclaim the arrival in time of the last days Kingdom of God promised by the prophets of old. The writings of the New Testament thus bear witness to the content and methods of apostolic preaching and teaching concerning the Kingdom of God. While the Old Testament has much to say in prospect concerning the Kingdom, the New Testament shows us how it actually came and how those who first received it faithfully and dutifully taught it to their contemporaries.

Demonstrating the Kingdom

A second purpose of the New Testament is to demonstrate the character of the Kingdom as it began to be realized within various communities of the Hebrew and Roman world. The Kingdom of power (1 Cor. 4.20) and of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit (Rom. 14.17) is first depicted in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. His power to heal and bless, cast out demons, befuddle His foes, and overcome sin and death demonstrated compellingly that a new reality had broken into time, a reality He both proclaimed and embodied.

In addition, the new reality of the Kingdom of God can readily be seen to be at work in the churches of Jerusalem, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, and elsewhere, as chronicled in Acts and the epistles. There can be no doubt that something new and powerful had broken into the lives of these people, enabling them to manifest a power for love, witness, and holiness that the world had never seen before.

Commissioning for the Kingdom

So important, so earth-shaking is the coming of the Kingdom of God that the world must be told and called to enter it through repentance and faith. To that end Jesus and the apostles worked to make disciples and commission leaders of the new Christian movement. The New Testament – especially the Gospels and the pastoral epistles – gives us details concerning the priority and protocols for ensuring Kingdom leadership for the generations. Here is a guide and manual for us to follow in developing Kingdom leaders in our own day.

Anticipating the Kingdom

Finally, while the New Testament announces and depicts the coming of the Kingdom of God, this is not a final coming. It is rather, merely the beginning of the end of the story of redemption, at least in its historical phase. For the full and final coming of the Kingdom of God awaits the consummation of the ages and the return of Jesus Christ in glory.

The entire New Testament, in all its parts, looks forward to this day, encouraging Kingdom citizens in every age to long, prepare, and strive for the Kingdom’s final coming by attending to the day-to-day business of the Kingdom here and now.

So we must read the New Testament not simply as a kind of personal guide to the devotional life. Instead, keeping in mind all the promises of the Old Testament – and especially the promise of a coming Kingdom – we must approach the New Testament as a kind of “Kingdom Magna Charta,” if you will, and, in particular, as a way of knowing and following Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone of the Church, Lord of the Kingdom of God, and the Architect and Builder of the divine economy. Any lesser reading of the New Testament fails to engage its primary purpose and cannot be expected to yield its intended fruit.

 Are your Bible reading and study practices what they ought to be? For a concise overview of how to study and apply the Bible, go to our book store and order a copy of Text to Transformation.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

Subscribe to Ailbe Newsletters

Sign up to receive our email newsletters and read columns about revival, renewal, and awakening built upon prayer, sharing, and mutual edification.

No